Vega Yunqué revisits the busy NYC Lower East Side Puerto Rican–American site of No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent (You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain’t Never Coming Home Again), 2003.
This equally raucous outing focuses initially on the eponymous Omaha, a 35-year-old failed NYU theater major and would-be filmmaker with green-dyed hair who’s been fired from his nothing job at Kinko’s and suffers continual sexual frustrations occasioned by his notorious genital shortcomings. Enter 15-year-old Maruquita Salsipuedes, the borderline-illiterate inheritor of the sorcerous powers brandished by her family’s powerful women brujas (i.e., witches)—who decides Omaha’s “the one,” takes him in tow, and orchestrates a “Ceremony of Enlargement” that makes him unfortunately irresistible to many, many women. Vega Yunqué’s lavish comic imagination fills the narrative with wonderfully offbeat characters: Maruquita’s formidable mother, Flaquita, whose walkup apartment in the Loisaida ghetto contains within itself a lush South American jungle; her brother Samuel Beckett Salsipuedes, enriched by Internet stock trading and working on an enigmatic postmodernist play; Kinko’s communistically devout day manager, Valery Molotov (“stay in progressive groove, dude”); and the several beneficiaries of Omaha’s serial impregnations once the news of his new endowment gets around the ’hood. Vega Yunqué makes it all work for nearly 200 pages as his characters hold forth in hilarious broken Spanglish, Maruquita shapeshifts and makes “magical-realist” mischief, and Omaha resumes his abandoned film career and conquers new horizons—notably and fatefully, WASP princess Winnifred Buckley. But the novel collapses into metafictional mannerisms as Vega Yunqué inserts his opinions into the text ad nauseam, concocting fantasies of uptight rightwing America vs. ethnically vital Latino culture. Even a vivid, wry, tragicomic ending can’t save this one from its own preening excesses.
Vega Yunqué is a potent talent, but this effort needed stringent editing—and, possibly, hormone reduction surgery.